Thursday, June 27, 2013

Album Review: "Singles" by Spider Bags

Singles by Spider Bags was released on Churchkey
Records on June 25, 2013
Spider Bags have become one of North Carolina's most beloved bands in what feels like no time at all. Although the band released their first full length in 2007, it wasn't until their 2009 release Goodbye Cruel World, Hello Crueler World that they truly began to pick up steam. Since then the band has only become tighter, finding themselves far more focused on honing their frenetic bursts of energy and razor-sharp lyricism.

The three years between Goodbye Cruel World... and their highly acclaimed follow-up Shake My Head was peppered with 7" singles released on various local labels, serving as a scrapbook that chronicles the natural progression of this garage rock outfit. But naturally, singles don't get as much attention as full lengths and many of these Spider Bags songs probably went unheard by quite a few folks if they weren't regularly attending the group's live shows. Thankfully, Church Key has relieved us of that ailment and on Tuesday the label released a collection simply titled Singles that packs all ten of these tracks into one extremely pleasing package.

Singles bridges the musical gaps between the band's most recent albums, but most importantly it stands alone as a brilliant piece of work. Independent from its bookended releases, Singles feels like a dip into exploration for this garage rock trio, the group's intrinsic southern influence rings out clearly on the album but they delve deeper into stranger sonic territories. "Take It Easy Tonite" kicks in with a bare-boned punk beat and unfurls as Dan McGee's lackadaisical lyricism beckons the listener to wind-down, providing an awesome dichotomy that encourages the listener to "take it easy" whilst igniting the primal reaction that high-energy punk is want to do. However, as a saxophone riff rips through the mix it's clear that Spider Bags aren't going to confine themselves to stereotypical standards set for a garage rock group. Spider Bags are going to rock when they want to and tone it down when it necessary.

Take "Eileen" for example, the track feels like it's one that could have easily found its way onto Shake My Head, it's a triumphant, broken hearted, boozy anthem that provides a glimpse of unfiltered sincerity that feels truly authentic. The song's refrain refers to Eileen as both an "ice queen" and "my one dream", chronicling a ridiculous break-up (and break-in for that matter) that strikes far too close to home. Everyone has been in that uncomfortable territory where you're still in love with someone but kind of hate them at the same time, but it's a topic that many don't like to dwell on. Not Spider Bags. Spider Bags takes solace in these unusual moments and turns them into lovable, relatable songs that strikes listeners physically and mentally.

The one-two punch of "Teenage Eyes" and "Papa Was A Shithead" serves as an excellent display of this as well, they perfectly convey the adolescent 'don't give a shit' punk attitude. "Teenage Eyes" reminisces on senseless debauchery with uptight fights and police sirens while "Papa Was A Shithead" feels like a grungy ode to terrible fathers everywhere. "The only time he was ever aware would be when he wanted money or emotional security." Spider Bags doesn't really candy-coat things and McGee isn't afraid to strike straight to the core of a song and toss out the flowery language in favor of a simple message with a simple approach.

That's why fans keep coming back to Spider Bags, because with each release they find new ways to cut through the bullshit and just rock. While they've definitely gotten more explorative with their sound, adding in James Brown covers, horns, and three minute instrumentals with xylophones on Shake My Head, Singles is a wonderful reminder of the long and winding road that a band takes within its lifetime. Some roads may be unfit for travelling and some we may wish to have stayed on longer, but a band like Spider Bags is one where listeners can just sit down and enjoy the ride.


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